Foz do Arelho: a hike in the seaside cliffs

Vasco Casula | Live the World

September 19, 2022

It's about two in the afternoon now. I just had lunch in one of the beach restaurants, which offer a variety of dishes with local fish and shellfish, straight from the waters of Lagoa de Óbidos and the Foz do Arelho coastline, in the region of Caldas da Rainha. Walking along the cobblestone sidewalk that follows the seaside avenue, I glance over to the beach. The only sea in sight is one made of sand, shining under the sun. The dunes spread wide, surrounding a small oasis of shallows where people gather up, and they are big enough to prevent me from seeing the atlantic shoreline.

A few trees here and there on the sidewalk give shade to the passer-by. In the sand there are volleyball nets and football fields, but no-one is playing at the moment. The sandstrip gets wider and gains some height. I can already see a few beach umbrellas atop the dunes of Praia do Mar. To my right are rows of parked cars, the foreground of the landscape people can see from the restaurant esplanades lined up with the pathway. When the road makes a turnaround, the sandstrip turns to the cliffs and extends for a few hundred meters more before ending on a rocky edge. I cross the road a bit before the turnaround, and reach a wooden stairway, trying to get a better view of the final stretch of Lagoa de Óbidos and see the whole of Praia do Mar. It is a huge sandstrip, crowded with people, and the sea is finally in sight!

There is another road here, on higher ground than the one before. A lot of people walk about this sunny square, where there are restaurant, stores, markets and cafes. I want to continue following the coastline and see what other sights it can offer, so I try to find any path along the shoreline. But there is no way to go past the northern edge of the beach, limited by cliffs below, and a guest house up in here, instead I have to go along the road. At this spot, it starts going uphill toward the housing area, getting away from the beach. It is a pretty sloping climb, but it is worth it- after different arrays of old and new apartments, and some well-placed beautiful villas, the road describes a couple of curves, and reaching a small viewpoint marked with a small fence, I can now get a great near-top view of the beach. But the cliffside ahead is its own treat.

I keep going up, and as the road gets closer and closer to the cliffside, the landscape in view changes completely. To my left grows the usual seaside vegetation, made of reeds, undergrowth and mats of ice plant. The terrain is made of sandy land, mostly light brown and white, becoming rockier as it slowly slopes downward into the sea. The ocean is the main protagonist now, taking most of the scenery with its waving greenish-blue colour. A very peaceful silence fills the area. There is a long wooden walkway starting here, inviting me to get closer into the cliffside. And so I do it, leaving the main road behind.

Windingly, the walkway offers a few spots that really are priviledged balconies to the vast shimmering sea. The beach, and the rest of the southern coastline, have been diluted in the distance. The wind picks up, rustling the taller shrubs, blowing in my hears. I found a few people passing by like me, walking slowly, watching their surroundings. There are occasional viewpoints, open areas where one can sit down for a while and admire the landscape from different angles, but its easy to find something to stop for and contemplate every step of the way. The cliffs fall into the sea, stackings of ocre boulders that turn dark in the clear waters. The swelling waves throw themselves without vigor against them, or try to climb the small sandstrips that manage to pop up. Down there, a fisherman is checking his rod, and taking his time.

It is time for a short break. I'm going to keep going along the seaside and try to find a way back around into the village of Foz do Arelho, hopefully getting back at the starting point of this long walk that started in Lagoa de Óbidos. The last story around this fantastic region will come soon, I will see you then!

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